An unexpected breakout 2019 season led many to assume Darren Waller would be a fantasy football bust in 2020, but so far, nothing could be further from the truth. Two weeks into the 2020 NFL regular season and the Las Vegas Raiders tight end is once again putting up elite fantasy numbers and rewarding fantasy managers for their leap of faith.
In this article, we’ll use our Pro Football Network analytics for a deeper dive into Waller’s 2020 season, plus take a look back at his unique journey to fantasy relevance. Waller’s NFL career began as a sixth-round pick in Baltimore, but substance abuse and injury issues kept the tight end from reaching his true potential. After getting sober and being reborn in Oakland under head coach Jon Gruden, Waller continues to rewrite the record book two games into the history of the now Las Vegas Raiders.
Darren Waller is on his way to fantasy dominance in 2020
While two weeks may be a small sample size, Waller remaining the number one receiving option in Las Vegas’ offense is a victory for everyone that selected the tight end at a value. Even after the Raiders selections of wide receivers Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards in the 2020 NFL Draft, Waller remains the clear number one passing-game target in the Las Vegas offense.
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It isn’t particular close, either. In fact, Waller has more targets in the first two games than the Raiders wide receivers have combined. So far this season, Waller has 24 total targets, including 16 in the Raiders 34-24 win over the New Orleans Saints. In comparison, Raiders wide receivers Hunter Renfrow, Henry Ruggs, Bryan Edwards, Nelson Agholor, and Zay Jones have 19 targets… combined.
With an 18-150-1 TD line through two games, Waller is massively outplaying his preseason fifth-round ADP in fantasy drafts. Averaging 19.4 points per game, Waller is currently the TE2 in PPR leagues, behind only Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.
Having only one touchdown reception is holding Waller back in standard and half-PPR leagues, but the Raiders tight end showed in 2019 how successful he can be without scoring touchdowns. Despite only scoring three touchdowns in 2019, Waller still finished as the TE3 in half-PPR leagues. Waller also didn’t score his first 2019 touchdown until Week 7, so the fact that Waller has already found the end zone in only two games is a great sign for the future.
Darren Waller’s Fantasy Consistency Score
A metric created by Pro Football Network fantasy analyst Phillip Caldwell, Consistency Score doesn’t look at overall points scored, but instead looks at how consistent each player is throughout the season. More consistent fantasy producers are better season-long investments than inconsistent boom/bust prospects since they produce more “starter quality” weeks.
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Waller’s 4.73 Consistency Score in 2019 was the second-highest score at the position. Two games into the 2020 NFL season, Waller is once again TE2 with an eerily similar 4.74 Consistency Score. Outside of perennial All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce, Waller has been the most consistent fantasy-producer at the position over the past two seasons. Not bad for someone readily available past the Top 50 picks of 2020 fantasy football drafts.
Darren Waller is consistently kicking butt.
Darren Waller’s 2020 outlook for the rest of the season
While some expected Waller to regress this season, there’s no data to support that notion in 2020. Waller is dominating snaps and targets while scoring fantasy points at a similar pace as a season ago. Quarterback Derek Carr is locked in on Waller as his number one passing option and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon.
Las Vegas will certainly look to get first-round wide receiver Henry Ruggs more involved as the season progresses, but I’m not convinced that it will have a negative impact on Waller’s fantasy success. If anything, Ruggs’ game-changing speed will continue to help underneath targets like Waller and Renfrow dominate against soft coverage.
As the number one receiving option on the Raiders, the biggest threat to Waller’s fantasy ceiling is teammate Josh Jacobs and the running game. Waller is receiving the vast majority of passing-game targets, so game script is about the only thing that can hold the tight end back from reaching his true potential. Las Vegas is expected to be in plenty of competitive contests in 2020, so feel free to fire up Waller as your TE1 all season long.
Jordan Woodson is a fantasy analyst for the Pro Football Network, find the mothership at @PFN365 on Twitter